The McGregor Fund, a private foundation dedicated to improving Detroit and Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties through grant-making, recovery, and restoration, today announced a $600,000 lead gift to establish the Detroit Justice Center (DJC). The center will provide legal services for hundreds of low-income individuals facing barriers to employment, housing, driver’s licenses, and address the consequences of mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty for many Detroit families.
Over time, the center will also work to help create housing and economic opportunities for returning citizens working to rebuild their lives and families, and advocate for restorative justice practices at state and local criminal justice systems.
“Two in three families with an incarcerated loved one have difficulty meeting basic needs — buying food, keeping the lights on — because of their incarceration,” says Amanda Alexander, founder and executive director of DJC. “Over the past several years, it’s become clear to me that Detroit and other cities will never work for everyone unless we address mass incarceration and its ripple effects across the community. I look forward to working alongside Detroiters at the Detroit Justice Center, creating our vision for a just city together.”
Alexander currently serves on the faculty at the University of Michigan and founded the Prison and Family Justice Project at the University of Michigan Law School in 2013 to reunite families by representing incarcerated prisons in child welfare proceedings and more.
Most recently, she has devoted an Echoing Green Fellowship to conceptualizing the center and developing its three-year launch plan, with a goal of raising four lead gifts of $600,000 each. The first was awarded by the New York-based NoVo Foundation in November and the second was gifted by The McGregor Fund.
“For years, the McGregor Fund has heard from social service agencies that the majority of their clients face material hardship because either a family member is currently incarcerated, or they themselves were formerly incarcerated and face residual legal barriers to restarting their lives,” says Kate Levin Markel, president of The McGregor Fund. “We have been looking for an opportunity to support comprehensive, civil legal services that offer the necessary specialization for very-low income families of incarcerated persons and returning citizens.”
The McGregor Fund was founded in 1925 by gifts from Katherine and Tracy McGregor “to relieve the misfortunes and promote the well-being of humankind.” To date, the fund has granted more than $250 million and had assets of nearly $172 million for adults and teens living in poverty.